On Sleepy Hollow Ranch

Bobby Robinson

“Bobby” Robinson, 1920

Dorothy Robinson Nylen of Dayton, Nevada, donated photographs of her father, Russell H. “Bobby” Robinson, as a youngster in Sleepy Hollow. She also shared some of her family’s history which follows.

The Robinson family came to the Sleepy Hollow Ranch in November 1918. The 1,600 acre ranch, owned by Richard Hotaling at the time, was under lease to San Rafael businessman Sigmund K. Herzog. Herzog had made the ranch into a modern, certified-milk dairy. Dorothy Nylen’s grandfather, Russell T. Robinson, was hired to manage it.
Nylen writes:

“Even though my grandfather had grown up in the city (San Francisco, Berkeley), he spent as much time as possible with his grandfather, Milo Robinson, who was a rancher. My grandfather graduated with a degree in agriculture (veterinary medicine and farm management) from UC Berkeley in 1915 after spending his last semester at UC Davis. He married Margarita Robinson (no relation), a Berkeley student, in March 1915. After graduation, he went to work on a dairy near Santa Clara, and then to the Shore Acres Dairy Farm near San Leandro. In the fall of 1917, he went to the Palo Alto Stock Farm and lived in the old Lathrop home on the Stanford Campus. It seems that one or more of his former professors at Berkeley thought quite highly of him and kept getting these jobs for him. By the time they went to Sleepy Hollow, my grandparents had two children: my father Russell H. and his sister Eleanor.”

Russell H. “Bobby” was two years old when the family moved to Sleepy Hollow. In recalling those early days in Sleepy Hollow, he wrote that he was given a .22 rifle and was taught to fire it, learned to ride horseback, and had a pet deer and goat. The goat “got himself into so much trouble that he was sold. Among his escapades, he got into the men’s sleeping quarters one night and got into their bathtub. One of the men returned from a night on the town drunk and found him there. Apparently the man didn’t drink for quite awhile after that.”


Bobby, 1920

Margarita Robinson’s days on the ranch were not as carefree as her young son’s. She recalled that there was a crew of 35 and a dairy herd numbering around 600. It was difficult to keep cooks on the ranch, and many times she had to take over on a moment’s notice and cook for the entire crew. The 1920 Federal Census lists the Robinson family along with two cooks, 7 milkers, two butter makers, and 9 laborers as residents at the Sleepy Hollow Ranch.

In 1921, the Robinson family left Sleepy Hollow when Russell T. was asked to serve as Farm Advisor for Alameda County in the UC Cooperative Extension. He was in Alameda when the foot-and-mouth disease broke out in 1924. He then went on to manage the vast holdings of the L. M. & V. Jacks Estate in Monterey County for ten years before going to UC Davis as a lecturer in 1936. The Robinsons always had fond memories of their days in Sleepy Hollow.

Bobby with his pet deer, 1919

Bobby with his pet deer, 1919

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